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It was over. Game 3 was already won. The series was 2-1. The Oilers were dominant. The message was sent. The series was back on. It was over

It was over. Game 3 was already won. The series was 2-1. The Oilers were dominant. The message was sent. The series was back on. It was over
Robert Tychkowski
Winnipeg Jets forward Andrew Copp (right) celebrates the tying goal from Josh Morrissey against the Edmonton Oilers in Game 3 of a Stanley Cup playoff series in Winnipeg on Sun., May 23, 2021. Photo by Kevin King /Postmedia
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We all saw it. Every agonizing second. We watched the replays, listened to the interviews and dissected the expert analysis.
But anyone who witnessed the Edmonton Oilers slow motion car wreck Sunday in Winnipeg still has no idea what the hell happened.
It was over. They had already won Game 3. They closed the deficit to 2-1. The message was sent. The series was back on. The Oilers looked great.
Then, inexplicably, out of nowhere in a game they had ruled for 50 minutes, the Oilers spit up all of it in a humiliating, jaw-dropping catastrophic implosion that all but ended their season.
A 4-1 lead with less than 10 minutes to play in the third period blew up in their faces like one of those dye packs the banks use to catch stupid robbers.
Winning is hard and there are painful lessons you need to learn to win, said head coach Dave Tippett, after the Winnipeg Jets somehow came back to win 5-4 in overtime, taking a 3-0 death grip on the series and leaving the Oilers to write another playoff tragedy to go with last years bubble exit.
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Tonight, we learned some hard lessons on what not to do to win in the playoffs. We did enough good things in this game to win, but we gave a game away.
Its disappointing because we havent been that team all year, weve done a good job of closing things out. Its disappointing that we did some of the things we did tonight. Now well see how we respond.
What happened?
I dont know, said Leon Draisaitl, at a loss to put this night into words. Mistakes. Maybe we panicked a little. Just collective and individual mistakes, I think.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins also had the thousand-yard stare as he tired to process a stunning turn of events that started the doomsday clock ticking on Edmontons season.
Not a whole lot to say. We shot ourselves in the foot a little bit. They had a push and we didnt respond well enough. There was no lack of trying for us. We battled hard, but we didnt get it done. Its tough to take right now.
It was tough to watch, too.
Trailing 2-0 in the series after two close losses, the Oilers were playing for their lives and it showed. They roared out for the first period, out-shooting Winnipeg 17-7 and jumping out to a 2-0 lead of a pair of goals from Draisaitl at 6:33 and 9:10.
They led 3-1 after 40 minutes after Zack Kassian converted a three-on-two and when Jujhar Khaira scored at 4:43 of the third period to make it 4-1, the Oilers were free and clear.
McDavid and Draisaitl had six points, Mike Smith was fantastic in net. They were cruising. Game over. Momentum was theirs.
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Then, in a scene reminiscent of their 2017 Game 5 meltdown against the Anaheim Ducks, when they gave up three goals in the final 3:16 before losing in overtime, the Oilers orchestrated one of the most epic collapses in franchise history.
Mathieu Perreault scored on a power play at 11:43 to make it 4-2.
Nothing to worry about. The Oilers got this.
Blake Wheeler scored at 14:28 to make it 4-3.
Um, this is getting serious.
Josh Morrisey scored at 14:44 to make it 4-4.
Aaaaaaaaggh!
Three goals in 3:03.
Any hope that they would regroup in the dressing room and make things right in overtime were put to rest when Nik Ehlers plunged a dagger through the heart of the entire Oilers organization withwith his second goal of the night at 9:13.
Unbelievable.
Lots goes wrong, I guess, sighed McDavid. Were in a good spot, up 4-1, they go on the power play, we cant get a kill. We kind of gave them a lifeline there and they took advantage.
The penalty was Josh Archibald for tripping at 11:11 as he tried to upend Logan Stanley. It provided the foot in the door Winnipeg needed.
The Archibald penalty was a huge turning point in the game, said Tippett. It was a poor penalty to take it and gave them life.
But to put it all on Archibalds plate is to let everyone else off the hook for their part in this epic masterpiece.
There was eight minutes left, we were still up by two, said Nugent-Hopkins. We had the opportunity. We didnt get it done.
Where do they go from here? Down 3-0 after one of the most crushing defeats weve seen in a long time? How do you recover from this?
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Its obviously unfortunate, said McDavid. Weve dug ourselves a really big hole, but were not going to roll over and play dead. We have to find a way to get a win Monday and take it from there.
Its hard to imagine this series isnt over, but the show must go on. Game 4 goes Monday night.
The easy thing would be to roll over and say this one is done, thats the easy thing to do, said Darnell Nurse.
Thats not the approach were going to take. When your backs are against the wall like ours are right now it doesnt feel good, but we still have the ability to control our fate.
E-mail: rtychkowski@postmedia.comOn Twitter: @Rob_Tychkowski
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